New Unit Protects Border Crossings

New unit protects border crossings
A new investigative unit was formed

By Rob Macko
The WIVB News (Buffalo, NY), November 25, 2008

Buffalo, NY — Keeping the border safe is a 24 hour a day job.

When it comes to border security, Customs and Border Protection officers are like police officers.

They make first contact with people coming into the United States, and stop them if they suspect problems.

Customs and Border Protection Director of Field Operations James Engleman said, 'So they're very skilled at interpreting the message they receive back from the travelers and being able to sift out from the vast numbers, which are the ones that raise their suspicions.'

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are like detectives.

If someone's caught with drugs or large sums of money, they track down the source.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Lev Kubiak said, 'Our job within ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is when the officers find something that they believe to be suspicious, we then initiate an investigative activity.'

Many of the investigations start in this office.

A new investigative unit, the Border Enforcement Security Task Force, or BEST, was formed in March.

It's a collaboration of 18 investigators from the United States and Canada.

Kubiak said, 'It's unique in that for the first time ever, we've been able to collocate Canadian and U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in one setting.'

Investigator on phone: 'You guys trying to make that call.'

Their goal is to intercept, identify, and dismantle criminal organizations operating between the U.S. and Canada.

Those task force members work inside a building at the Peace Bridge. They say that being right at the border crossing allows them to start their investigations immediately.

Vince Salvatore from Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervises the BEST unit.

BEST Supervisor Vince Salvatore said, 'The primary focus of this task force has been on narcotics trafficking from Canada into the United States. The primary illicit drugs that we're involved in here is ecstasy and hydroponic marijuana.'

Kubiak said, 'It could be humans that are smuggled. It could be drugs. It could be contraband. One of the issues the Canadians are worried about is guns being smuggled out of the United States into Canada.'

Remember the guy who tried to pass off a date rape drug as Holy Water?

That case is now with the BEST unit.

Salvatore said, 'That individual was entrusted by, we believe, an organization to transport a large quantity of drugs that has a very high street value.'

The arrest at the border sets everything in motion.

It's ultimately up to the BEST team to track down who's behind the smuggling operation.